Dhoni is Like the Classic Hindi Film Mughal-E-Azam: Sandeep Patil
It amazes not only me, but all cricket pundits, that Dhoni is still maturing every day and every year, like a fine wine. The old Hindi proverb comes to mind: “Bandar buddha ho jata hain par gulati marna nahi chodhta” (monkeys grow old, but never stop their antics).
Just a year back, most ‘knowledgeable’ Indian cricket followers started doubting Dhoni’s ability to win matches – but their doubts suddenly disappeared as Dhoni once again emerged as the world’s leading match winner. And how can I forget seeing Dhoni and meeting him in person?
I have spoken of Dhoni umpteen times and I will continue to talk about him and his journey in years to come. One can write columns on MS Dhoni’s epic journey and with every game he plays, Dhoni gives us more and more to write about. For me, Dhoni is like the classic Hindi film Mughal-E-Azam – it never gets old, and you can watch it on repeat.
First Met Dhoni in 2004
I still remember seeing Dhoni for the first time in 2004. This 5 feet 11 inch stocky lad with long hair and sharp features walked into the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. At that time, I don’t think anybody would have given him a second look, or for that matter even have thought that he will one day rule Indian and World cricket.
I actually saw Dhoni for the first time while he was playing for India A against Chandrakant Pandit’s India Under-19 team. I still remember him batting at No. 7 and scoring a quick-fire 36. I remember telling Chandrakant that there was something different about him.
Also, that was the first time I saw him play his helicopter shot and it reminded me of my innings of 129-not-out against England in 1982. I remember I hit Jeff Miller with a helicopter shot for six over the mid-wicket boundary.
Alongside greats like GR Vishwanath, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, Dhoni appears as one of Indian cricket’s most shy players – on and off the field. But I must say, I have also seen the same Dhoni singing and dancing on his favourite Amitabh Bachchan number “salaam-e-ishq meri jaan”, and not just one line, but the entire song during one of the India A tours many years back.
The year 2004 is one that neither Dhoni nor I can forget. That year he was selected as the reserve wicket keeper during the India A tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Dinesh Karthik was the main keeper but when he got a call for the senior Indian team, Dhoni got the chance to play in the big leagues.
The door of opportunities opened for MS Dhoni in that tour, and by December he had made his ODI debut. Till date, that door is wide open for Mahi.
Dhoni Was Always No. 4 Batsman For Me
Dhoni’s style of batting, his self confidence, his ability to remain cool in difficult situations, the art of keeping all team members together and, of course, his top performances when the Indian team needed him the most make him an all-rounded player.
For me, Dhoni was always the best pick for a No. 4 batsman. When you talk about a No. 4 batsman in World Cricket and all the greats who have played at the spot, Dhoni is as good as anybody in the limited overs format.
After taking over the role of captain from Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, he sacrificed his own batting position and moved to no. 7 to help steady the team.
Dhoni Is The Best Indian Captain
Indian cricket has seen many great cricket captains starting from the late Col CK Nayudu to current captain Virat Kohli. In 1983, Kapil Dev won the first World cup for India but Dhoni’s achievements are far bigger. He not only captained India to the 2011 ICC World Cup title, but also led the team to its first-ever T20 World Cup win, the Champions Trophy win and also guided India to the top spot in ICC test rankings.
All this put together, in my opinion, make him the best captain India has ever seen.
Also, for someone like me, who has seen Dhoni’s great cricket journey, it would be great to see him be a part of the 2019 World Cup winning Indian team. Everybody talks about his helicopter shot and his match-winning abilities, but for me, his greatest ability is the way he keeps wickets. Wicket-keeping in fact is mostly considered a big punishment – doing thousand of sit-ups, diving left and right, ensuring brilliant stumping, affecting run-outs, taking all blows on their fingers and bodies and still keeping oneself absolutely fit, Dhoni aces it.
Such cricketers remain legends even after retirement.
The Legend of Dhoni
From 2004 till 2017, whenever I have the opportunity to meet Dhoni, as a coach or as a chief selector, he always carries that cheeky smile with a spark in his eyes. I am so glad that I was able to see him grow from a young boy to a man.
He has earned tremendous respect from all over the world not only because of his exploits on the field but because of his gentlemanly behaviour both on and off the field. He is the role model not only for Indians but also for foreign cricketers as well. He has done us all proud.
It is very difficult to read Dhoni’s mind as he hardly shows any emotion after winning or losing.
I pray and wish that God gives him more strength, and the legend that is Dhoni continues to grow, sustaining his position as the darling of the entire cricketing World. Good luck Mahi!
(Former India cricketer Sandeep Patil played 29 Tests and 45 ODIs from January 1980 to May 1986. Patil scored 1,588 runs in Tests and 1,005 runs in ODIs. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
(This story was first published on 8 May 2018 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark MS Dhoni’s 37th birthday.)
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